The Rhinelander High School boys' soccer teams still have high expectations for the 2018 season after coming back from another Great Northern Conference title and made it the WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal. This season the Hodags have several challenges they will face including lack of depth on their lineup and losing their top scorer and GNC player of the year from last year.
Jonus Sabani will be playing club soccer for his senior season instead of playing the fall season with RHS. Sabani led the conference with 18 goals and six assists. But despite the scoring void, Rhinelander brings back plenty of players that can step into that scoring role.
Rhinelander will return their second top scorer from a year ago, first team all-conference midfielder Matthew Von Oepen. In the conference Von Oepen led with nine assists and also added nine goals. Defender Freddy Wisner will also be back in action and would chip in three goals and three assists in 2017. RHS will also bring back Daniel Ritchie, Hunter Hicks, Hugh Weise, Martin Hoger, Nicholas St. Pierre, Ritchie Triplett, and Anthony Kowalski.
Looking at the Hodags' defense, they had a few positions to fill after losing GNC defensive player of the year Alec Lowry and first-team defender Joseph Schmitz, and second team defender Darien Bloomquist who all graduated. The Hodags will bring back first team all-conference keeper Josh Randolph. Leading the conference with a 0.72 goals against average, Randolph also finished with an 0.848 save percentage.
Although the Hodags return several players, they still will focus on staying healthy and injury-free due to a lack of depth on their varsity lineup. Rhinelander will seek their fifth consecutive GNC title under head Coach Dan Millot and would mark their seventh overall title in eighth season. After falling 1-3 to Amherst/Iola-Scandinavia in the sectional semifinal last season will look to advance to the D3 sectional finals.
Northland Pines will likely be the Hodags’ top conference rival this season after finishing runner up with a 7-3 record. Lakeland, Medford, and Mosinee all finished the GNC with four wins.
Rhinelander will kick of their season when they host the Hodag Invite on Saturday at the Hanson Lake Soccer Complex. RHS will take on Iron Mountain at 9:00AM and then will play Ironwood in the afternoon. RHS will open their conference season Tuesday night when they host Antigo at Mike Webster Stadium. Kick-off is set for7:00PM.